Einarson wins way into Tournament of Hearts final, downs Jones 6-4

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — A team made up entirely of former skips is a win away from a Canadian women's curling championship.

Manitoba's Kerri Einarson downed the Jennifer Jones wild-card team 6-4 on Saturday in an all-Manitoba playoff between the top two seeds.

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Einarson's Gimli Curling Club foursome earned an express ticket to Sunday evening's championship game.

Six-time champion Jones from Winnipeg needs to beat Ontario's Rachel Homan in the afternoon semifinal to gain a rematch with Einarson for the title.

Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur all skipped different teams in 2017-18 before joining forces.

Einarson was on her game Saturday night in Moose Jaw, Sask., shooting 94 per cent.

She's posted 90-plus percentages in four of her last five games.

"I'm just in the zone," the skip said. "Not thinking about anything else, but just making those shots.

"I've just been feeling really comfortable out there. Feeling the flow and smelling the ice. When you just step out onto the ice, you just get this feeling and it feels really good."

If the 32-year-old from Selkirk can replicate that feeling Sunday, her team will be a formidable foe for the semifinal winner.

"There's a few things we could sharpen up on, but Kerri played unreal," Sweeting said. "She's been on a roll. It was incredible to watch out there. She lets it go and you know she's making a good one.

"If anything, just keep her rolling."

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner represents Canada at next month's world championship in Prince George, B.C., and returns to next year's Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as Team Canada.

A berth in the 2021 Olympic trials also goes to the winner, as well as $105,000 of the $300,000 prize purse.

Three of the four on Einarson's team have previous experience in Hearts finals with different rinks.

Einarson's wild-card team lost to Jones in the 2018 finale. Birchard was Jones's third that year substituting for regular vice Kaitlyn Lawes, who was playing mixed doubles in the Winter Olympics.

Sweeting skipped Alberta to back-to-back silver medals in 2014 and 2015. She lost to Jones in Moose Jaw in 2015.

"I'm grateful for the experience," Sweeting said. "It's also been pretty heartbreaking, so going to definitely leave everything I can out there."

Manitoba scored deuces in the sixth and eighth against Jones ends to lead 5-3.

Einarson held Jones to a single point in the ninth to be up one coming home with last-rock advantage.

The Manitoba skip made her hit and roll for the win in the 10th.

Einarson skimmed her last stone of the eighth past a guard to tap for two.

She executed another tough tap in the sixth with her shooter just hanging onto the eight-foot rings for a second point.

"We would make one miss an end and they would just make a perfect shot," Jones said. "We couldn't get a deuce going. We had deuces set up and we just couldn't capitalize on them.

"Hopefully we'll capitalize on them tomorrow."

Homan eliminated Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville 9-5 in Saturday's playoff between the third and fourth seeds.

The first-team all-stars announced Saturday were Homan, Sweeting, Birchard and Ontario lead Lisa Weagle.

Einarson, Ontario third Emma Miskew and second Joanne Courtney and Team Canada lead Rachel Brown were named second-team all-stars.

Also, Curling Canada and TSN announced an extension of their broadcast rights contract for another eight years.

The agreement kicks in for the 2020-21 season through to 2027-28.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2020.

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